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The Short Version: Founded in 1800, Centre County is a longstanding community rooted in the heart of Pennsylvania. The county features many notable date spots, including Penn State, Mountain Bald Eagle, and Penn’s Cave. If you’re planning a romantic getaway in Central Pennsylvania, you can always find a local restaurant, an outdoor trail, or an annual festival to keep you occupied. Couples of all ages and backgrounds appreciate the area’s inclusive and youthful spirit. From historic sites to world-class concerts, Centre County hosts an array of attractions that draw in active daters looking to have a good time.
When James Potter, a Pennsylvania soldier, land developer, and politician, reached the top of Mount Nittany in 1764 and set his eyes on “the prairies and noble forest beneath him, [he] cried out to his attendant, ‘By heavens, Thompson, I have discovered an empire!'” The first to record his exploration of what is today known as Centre County, James Potter couldn’t have known how popular a destination the area would become.
Centre County in Pennsylvania has a total area of 1,113 square miles and a diverse population of over 160,000 people. The area includes several boroughs and townships, and it’s also home to Pennsylvania State University, whose students make up a significant portion of the population. According to the 2010 US Census, the median age for county residents is 29. The county’s diverse and growing student population distinguishes it from other parts of the state.
“The area has a romantic feel to it because so many people go to school here or spend a significant amount of time here,” said Andy Rupert, Director of Marketing for the Central PA Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Oftentimes your college experience is a time for dating and meeting new people, so I think that makes for a vibrant dating community.”
The historic and well-maintained towns in Centre County provide a lovely background for any date night, and out-of-towners can drop by quiet communities, like Boalsburg or Bellefonte, to get away from the congestion, stress, and roughness of big cities.
When you visit Centre County, you can slow down with someone special and take an evening stroll in a welcoming and safe suburb in the heart of Pennsylvania.
Andy said that while Penn State has a cosmopolitan and progressive feel to it, the surrounding area is more of a peaceful countryside. You get the best of both worlds; you can sample international cuisine without the headaches of big crowds and traffic. Centre County offers many engaging and affordable opportunities for romance, so planning a date or a romantic getaway here is easy.
Andy described Centre County’s culinary scene as a melting pot of international influences. You won’t find many chain restaurants. Many locally owned and operated restaurants feature authentic cuisine from around the world as talented chefs move to Pennsylvania and bring a rich heritage with them.
Baby’s Burgers & Shakes, a 1950’s themed diner, is a prime date spot for many students because it’s located in the middle of State College. The retro look is fun and casual, so you can stop by to share a basket of fries, a specialty burger, and an old-fashioned cream soda or root beer float with your date.
Speaking of hand-dipped ice cream, Penn State’s Berkey Creamery has been serving luscious scoops of ice cream and sherbet for over 150 years. From death by chocolate to bittersweet mint, these flavors will always leave you and your date wanting more.
The Hummingbird Room is a particularly romantic restaurant at the Jared B. Fisher Estate in Centre County. Couples can eat beneath the branches of a willow tree or in a rustic dining room. Since 1993, this elegant restaurant has wowed diners with its artistically crafted dishes and seasonal farm-fresh ingredients. The kitchen even makes its own breads and pastas.
“My husband and I are still talking about the incredibly delicious food we ate at this restaurant,” said Julie Parker in a review on Facebook. “From the moment you walk in the door, the aroma of sauces cooking in the kitchen fill the air, and you know you’re in for a treat. The ambiance in the dining room was so romantic with the candle lighting and the French music playing in the background.”
“We have a great restaurant and nightlife community,” Andy told us. “We’ve found that couples who have been together a while really enjoy the Central PA Tasting Trail, which is built up of all of our local craft beverage businesses in the county.”
Big Spring Spirits is the second stop on the trail. This craft distillery tempts daters with artisan cocktails and locally sourced beers and ciders. The tasting room’s mixologists serve innovative and classic drinks to give any date night a fun twist. Whether you’re in the mood for a pumpkin pie cocktail or a cinnamon-infused whiskey, you’ll definitely find something to satisfy your taste buds here.
Andy also recommended The Field Burger & Tap, American Ale House, Gigi’s Southern Table, and Duffy’s Tavern to couples going on a dinner date. “We have a very open and welcoming community to people from all over the world,” he said, “and because of this our international food selection surprises visitors a lot.”
Some couples enjoy getting out and exploring the great outdoors together. They look for off-the-beaten-path dates visiting lakes, nature trails, and public parks. Central Pennsylvania certainly has plenty of fun outdoor date activities to excite locals and visitors in the area.
For instance, you can take a date to visit Penn’s Cave, a historic cave located at Gregg Township. This tourist destination features the only all-underwater limestone cavern in the US. Visitors take 45- to 50-minute cave tours by boat to witness the natural beauty of Penn’s Cave. You can spend hours exploring the wildlife park, and then enjoy a bison burger at the Cave Cafe or pan for gemstones at the Prospector Pete’s Sluice. This affordable historic park draws thousands of visitors each year.
If you want to raise the caliber of your date activities, book a tour in a hot air balloon. The Sky’s The Limit Ballooning Company gives people a bird’s eye view of State College, Happy Valley, and the Central Pennsylvania countryside. Taking a date up in a balloon is a great way to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary in style.
Whatever outdoor recreation appeals to you, Centre County has a range of options to keep you entertained as you tour the area with your date.
“We’re also blessed to have a downtown that is only 15 to 20 minutes away from several state parks full of mountain bike and hiking trails,” Andy said. “And we have the State College Spikes and Penn State Athletic events for sports lovers.”
Something is always going on in Central Pennsylvania. As Andy said, “We’re a big enough area that there is always something new popping up, but small enough that it doesn’t take you 45 minutes of waiting in traffic to get there.”
Every July, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts draws a crowd of over 125,000 people from across the country. People come from all over to celebrate the arts on the campuses of State College and Penn State. The arts fest includes musical performances, street painting, and a bustling sidewalk sale where artists promote their works.
According to the festival’s website, “We look forward to welcoming everyone who wants to enjoy great art, fabulous music, tasty festival fare, and the company of old and new friends.” You can take a date to this engaging festival to bond in a colorful setting.
Couples can also ring in the New Year at the annual First Night State College event, which starts 2 p.m. and wraps up at 11 p.m. The family-oriented and music-centered celebration doesn’t feature alcohol, but it does have puppet processions, choral performances, and other shows featuring the talents of local students. Plus, the 5k Resolution Run gives daters a chance to get their blood pumping and get a jump on their New Year’s resolutions to exercise more. You can take your date on a romantic carriage ride or go ice skating at the festive event before retiring to a more intimate setting to watch the ball drop and share a midnight kiss.
Centre County Grange Fair Encampment often hosts community events, including gun shows, bluegrass concerts, and equestrian sports. The 144th annual Grange Fair looks to be bigger than ever with grandstand headliners including Tracy Lawrence, and Natalie Stovall. Some campers basically move into the Grange Park for a week in August to enjoy the concerts, food, games, and competitions.
Whether you’re planning a weekend date or a week-long vacation in Central Pennsylvania, you can always find something going on here. The region’s beautiful countryside and active downtown spots keep daters having fun no matter where they go. You can check out Centre County’s events calendar to keep up with everything going on in this buzzing community.
Looking to the future, the Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitors Bureau remains focused on steadily growing the area while remaining true to what makes each community special.
“People have a strong emotional connection to State College — and this region as a whole,” Andy said. “We’re always straddling the line between evolving forward, but also preserving those memories that allow people to come back and relive them.”